Drama Recaps
Sword and Flower: Episode 1
by | July 5, 2013 | 95 Comments

What an… interesting show. Sword and Flower premiered this week, and it’s a fantastically executed show from a cinematic standpoint—amazing clarity, colors, lighting. It’s a feast for the eyes… though maybe not the ears. Because sumptuous visuals aside, the other elements, from tone to characterization to pacing, are rather uneven. I’m still working out whether I think this show is going for serious or silly, epic romance or comic farce. At least the ride will be pretty.


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We begin with a narration that gives us the nuts and bolts of the story to come, told to us by Princess MU-YOUNG (Kim Ok-bin). She is the daughter to King YOUNG-RYU, the second-to-last king of Goguryeo, which puts this story close to the year 642.

The Goguryeo kingdom is facing increasing attacks from their neighbors of the Tang Dynasty, and a difference of opinion has the king at odds with his general, YEON GAESOMUN. The general wants to go to war, Young-ryu prefers strategic planning.

Then there’s YEON CHOONG (Uhm Tae-woong), son of Yeon Gaesomun and Princess Mu-young’s “love of a lifetime,” of whom she wonders, “Would it have been better had we never met?”

Mu-myung asks despairingly, “Why did Goguryeo fall?” As the camera pulls back from the close-up of her face, we see that she sits in the charred ruins of a palace.

Time to back up. Traveling along a mountain road, a royal entourage conveys the princess and prince (played by Lee Min-ho). Arrows come flying in as the party is ambushed: Bodies fall and the guards shout to protect the princess. A chase ensues.

At the palace, King Young-ryu (Kim Young-chul) addresses his council about Goguryeo’s conflict with its neighboring kingdoms. His advisers argue for more aggressive measures against possible Tang invasion, and while Yeon Gaesomun (Choi Min-soo) remains silent, it’s clear he’s a leading force in that faction.

Young-ryu argues, “Do you know what war entails?” He has fought with his own sword to defend this nation, and Goguryeo is in no condition to go to war. Young-ryu addresses General Yeon specifically: “It is not the strong who survive—it is those who survive who are strong.”

The council is silenced, but Yeon Gaesomun finally opens his mouth. They must act immediately, he declares, starting with replacing the chief minister (Goguryeo’s highest ranking state office). With Tang on the verge of invading, they need someone strong and swift to action, the implication being that the current chief minister is weak and incapable. He also happens to be present, all, Guys, I’m standing right here.

The king disagrees—the country’s stability is the priority, and the naming of the prince as successor should come first. Both men are strong-willed and convinced of their respective stances. Impasse.

The princess’s entourage remains under attack as they are chased. Mu-young momentarily takes the reins to drive the carriage while her guards fight off the assassins, who shoot a constant barrage of arrows her way.

Thanks to Mu-young’s level head and one badass bodyguard (JANG, played by Ohn Joo-wan), they make it within the city walls and keep the carriage rolling despite the fierce battering it gets from the wild ride. And then another set of fighters joins the chase via chariot to take down the attackers.

The court face-off between the king and the general is interrupted with the news of the attack: Tang forces have struck the princess’s procession.

But no, it’s General Yeon and a faction of his officials who concocted this plot, framing it as a Tang act of aggression. They hear that one survivor was captured by the guards and worry that their scheme may be revealed.

Elsewhere in the city, the general’s son Choong steps out and heads down the street just as the princess opens her carriage window. They pass each other in slow motion amidst rainfall, as befits their dramatic epic romance.

Princess Mu-young’s carriage is followed by a prison wagon, which holds the hostage they captured from the ambush. Choong makes his way to a rooftop nearby, then lets fly an arrow. The prisoner is shot dead, and the crowd erupts into screams and disorder. Ah, so he kills the loose end, to prevent him from incriminating Yeon by spilling what he knows.

Mu-young jumps out of the carriage and spots Choong in the distance, who makes his exit by leaping from rooftop to rooftop. She grabs a sword and charges after him, while bodyguard Jang does the same.

Choong pauses to wrap his face in a scarf before resuming his escape, knocking aside guards like it ain’t nuthin’. Jang gives him a harder time and they swordfight in close quarters until Choong slips away, heading upward to rooftops again. I’m noticing there is a lot of music in this drama. A LOT OF MUSIC. Normally I like music, but it’s getting a bit onerous.

Anyway. Choong leaps a wall and lands safely… at swordpoint. Mu-young stands on the other side wielding her sword, though she doesn’t attack. Then Jang jumps in and Choong fights him, making his getaway after getting sliced in the arm.

Jang heads to an inn, where Choong commands the attention of an admiring crowd by shooting an arrow through an apple while blindfolded. He sure was quick to find safety and assume a cover, though Jang still gives him a close once-over with a suspicious eye.

He moves on, though, after noting that Choong’s arm is clean. A few seconds later, though, the blood starts seeping through and soaks his sleeve. Whoops.

Both men stand stock-still, assessing the tense moment, waiting for an opening. Slowly, they both reach for their swords… and then a woman pulls Choong aside and interrupts the moment.

Choong watches Jang leaving the building, and then we shift to what must be flashback. Are we in a flashback in a flashback in a flashback now?

In the memory, a display of Choong’s shooting prowess attracts the attention of a man, who follows him out. He offers up a job making good use of his skills, which is of no interest to Choong until he hears that it will put him in contact with “someone very high up.” He asks if he’ll be able to meet “him.”

In the present (er, still flashback, but one level up on the Inception-o-meter), Choong takes a look at a pendant, one side of which bears a drawing of a woman’s face.

It’s the woman we next see, who walks with a younger Choong (another flashback, oy). Young Choong asks his mother where his father is and why they don’t live together, assuming that his father kicked Mom out of the house because she was a slave. His mother assures him that his father is a good person, and gives Choong the necklace. You carry around a necklace of your own face?

Safely back at the palace, Princess Mu-young informs her father of the second group of fighters who saved her in the attack. She guesses that they work for the king, which means he was anticipating something of the sort.

Mu-young next finds Jang, who isn’t merely a bodyguard-warrior but also her cousin. He also happens to be the next king of Goguryeo—not a spoiler, the show labels him as such—so it isn’t too hard to imagine the conflicts lining his immediate future. Mu-young speaks of the tension plainly, noting the perverseness of a fate that makes her brother not want to be king, while Jang is unable to be king without becoming an enemy.

Jang answers, “Fate can be changed.” Yeaaah, I think we call that murder. The words sound ominous to her ears, but Jang covers it up by saying that he means her brother will overcome his fate.

Mu-young seeks out the warriors who came to her rescue, now that she knows they’re part of a secret group serving the king. She thanks them and asks for information, hoping to confirm her suspicions tying recent events to the Yeon family. However, there isn’t enough concrete evidence to draw any conclusions. The leader does offer up one of his younger men, SHI-WOO (Lee Jung-shin), to help her out whenever she needs.

While she’s out and about, Mu-young browses the marketplace and stops at a shop selling hair ornaments. There, she notices a man who happens to stop by to look at the same table, and he captures her interest. Quite intensely, at that.

He looks at her with an expression of Ooh, pretty, so apparently they’re still strangers at this point. An accidental hand touch kick-starts the instant attraction, with a very oddly placed pop song to mark the occasion, and they cutely steal glances back and forth.

But when she works up the nerve to speak, she finds that he’s gone. Mu-young catches a glimpse of him walking down the next street and keeps apace with him… only to find him gone again.

She sighs in disappointment, and turns to find him standing behind her. They trade bashful smiles, and then he spies danger hurtling at her in the form of a wagon and yanks her out of its path.

She goes whirling through the air, flipping upside-down into Spiderman kiss mode, and the camera does the full slow-motion 360 whirlaround. I’m rolling on the ground laughing. This is embarrassing for both of us, Show.

Then they’re back with all four feet on solid ground, smiling again. The editing on this show leaves something to be desired. How about some context?

Flower petals flutter down, marking one-half of this show’s title and symbolizing the start of love. I’d give you one guess as to what the other half of the title means, but I think we all Get It Already.

General Yeon’s co-conspirators cackle in glee now that their one loose end has been tied (er, shot). Now there is nobody left to tie the princess’s attack to them, which they concocted to give them grounds for declaring war with the Tang.

The head conspirator asks if General Yeon has a candidate in mind for the new chief minister position. Yeon just gives the man a pat on the shoulder as if to say it’s his.

Choong arrives to see General Yeon, and we can see how much this means to him, his first time speaking with his father. Yeon says not a word, and so Choong is the one filling the long silences, saying that he came alone, that his mother has passed away, that he tried to see General Yeon before but was turned away every time. That’s why he took on this task—even though it was his first time taking a life—so he would get the opportunity to see him.

Choong waits expectantly, hopefully, for some sort of response. It’s almost painful, the intensity of hope you know he feels.

But General Yeon merely says, “There is no place for you in this house.” Choong walks away silently.

Mu-young goes to bed clutching a flower petal, taken as a memento of that encounter with Choong. She relives the moment, smiling.

It’s a different kind of night for Choong, who feels the weight of his father’s rejection. But as he looks up, a flower petal floats down in front of his face, and he catches it. At least the memory of Mu-young seems to lift his spirits, if just a bit.

General Yeon gets a missive calling him to the palace, because the king has uncovered the mastermind of the prisoner assassination plot. Yeon’s advisers warn that this may be a trap to kill him, and they insist he not go.

Mu-young practices her swordfighting with her father while discussing her suspicions. King Young-ryu is aware of the danger General Yeon poses and the need to be rid of him, but knows that one false move could backfire on him. However, the king says that if he doesn’t come to the palace tonight, Yeon Gaesomun cannot survive. I presume because staying away points to Yeon’s guilt.

That night, General Yeon does in fact head out to the palace with his retinue of men, and presents himself at court. The meeting itself is one-on-one, with the king awaiting him in his empty throne room.

The king begins by acknowledging that the Tang dynasty is sure to grow stronger and invade Goguryeo. They’re both in agreement of the inevitable danger; it’s their respective strategies that are at odds.

The king states, however, that General Yeon went too far in faking a Tang attack. He intends to keep the incident quiet, for the sake of national stability, and is even willing to compromise on the matter of the chief minister. But there’s a quid pro quo: He wants the prince named successor. He gives Yeon time to reply, but warns that it won’t be long.

Mu-young returns to that hair ornament shop in the marketplace, thinking of Choong. Oh god, that awful pop song is back. Okay, I take that back; the song is quite catchy, but it’s in a John Hughes ’80s high school way.

Mu-young looks around hopefully for a glimpse of Choong, but the closest she gets to finding him is a poster bearing his blindfolded face. It’s presumably for his arrow-shooting displays, but it bears the distinct resemblance to a Wanted poster, which makes it hilarious. She tracks him to the inn by comparing the backdrop of the ink drawing to the landscape. Tell me you’re laughing too.

Too bad for her the building is empty. Sad Trumpet scores the moment as she waits, and waits, and waits.

And then, from above, Choong peers out. It’s actually rather sweet, even though the screenshot has a distinct creep-o vibe to it.

It’s enough to change his mind—he had been ready to leave town, but now decides against it. He’s also determined to take on “proper work” now, and heads out.

Mu-young perks up to see him leaving and follows, though she’s contending with the crowd that gathers around him while Choong’s sidekick sprays the sidewalk in fliers. Okay, this music is starting to bother me now. It’s like something out of Gidget, and Uhmforce is Moondoggying his way down the street like a stud.

But I guess he deserves it ’cause he is a stud, as he demonstrates more of his archery skills by shooting apples blindfolded. The crowd cheers in admiration, with Mu-young joining in the enthusiasm.

For the next round, the sidekick solicits a “brave lady” to help out, and that’s when our couple meets eyes. Choong starts walking straight for Mu-young, stopping in front of her and asking, “Will you trust me?” She nods.


I feel like Sword and Flower is two shows mashed into one, or perhaps even more than two. You’ve got the artsy war epic with the tragic romance at the center, which is the show I was expecting based on all the promos and taglines. It’s beautifully shot, with lingering pauses (some might say too lingering, but potayto-potahto) and moments weighted with gravitas, as befits a historical action-coup storyline.

Then there’s the offbeat goofball side, which I admit took me by surprise. Unless it’s not doing that on purpose, in which case it’s a different story. But let’s assume the flippant tone is intentional, and that they’re doing this with a sense of purpose. Maybe the electric-guitar metal ballad is a cheeky nod to… something… and the bouncy pop track is meant to give the tragic lovers a… peppy juvenile bent to soften the blow?

Or maybe it’s the rebirth of Strongest Chil-woo, though not as absurd and with a decent production budget. There are some moments that feel like cheeky parody, but the drama’s not stylized enough to be The Good, The Bad, The Weird, or even Kim Ok-bin’s fusion sageuk romp movie The Accidental Gangster and the Mistaken Courtesan (aka 1724 Gibang Incident). It’s just a bit quirky. Which is totally a thing, and it might even be totally your thing, in which case go for it. I fully encourage you to watch it to decide whether the style suits your taste or not, because it’s not inherently bad.

As for me, I have limited patience for self-indulgence. Sword and Flower employs the opposite of spare storytelling of the sort where every beat is important and no moment wasted. Rather, this show luxuriates in excesses, whether it’s long silences or the same flashback shown four times. It takes twenty seconds to walk across the room. There’s no need for that. And then he walks back.

To be fair, I’ll play devil’s advocate: It’s quite refreshing to have a drama showcase a different rhythm from the standard broadcast stuff. Often shows fall into so much of the same old beats that even when the plots are completely different from one another, they all start to feel very similar on a gut level. We find that “twists” lose their twist, characters lose their minds, and clichés make us want to shoot something. Maybe the writers. So I do enjoy the feeling of being knocked back a little and agitated by an unfamiliar rhythm. It keeps me on my toes, and I think there’s a place for that in dramaland. It’s just… does that rhythm have to be so slow?

I’m all for art films and breathing moments, but I’m not sure this is the most compelling use of those breathing moments, because I found myself getting antsy throughout. Watching somebody tap his fingers for long stretches of silence can be quite compelling and tension-building when you do it the first time, strung tight with anticipation. When we’re halfway through the premiere and we’re in the fifth example of such pacing, though, it just feels pretentious.

Speaking of which, there’s a lot of camera work with off-centered shots, close-ups of eyes and lips and chins. It actually looks really cool at first, especially with the high film quality, but again it’s the incessant repetition that kills it. Then I’m left grumping, Can you maybe just shoot a whole face in one frame? I don’t want to watch a whole drama in jigsaw!

Okay, criticism aside, I think there’s a fair amount to recommend the show. Mostly the visuals, which are neat. Yes, there’s a lot of pretty for the sake of pretty. But even if style trumps substance, style itself is a worthy element to elevate, isn’t it? So on that score this drama is doing something pretty cool, and the mishmashing of tones can be a welcome experiment, if that kind of thing doesn’t drive you batty. No guarantees on that.

The king versus the general is predictable so I don’t much care for that clash, but the two actors are fantastic and make the ideological gridlock feel important and dire. Who can do gravitas and badassery better than Choi Min-soo? He gives his character dignity as well, so we’re not approaching him as an outright villain. Both leaders are actually on the same page, which is what makes the clash so unfortunate.

So far I’m liking the character of Mu-young quite a bit. Even if she fell in love for no reason. I know, I know, romance meet-cutes are never about logic—but still, I didn’t get the WHY of it all. And I do want to feel for a romance on a gut level, otherwise there’s no excitement in watching it develop, and thus no pathos when it all goes to pieces. But she’s a princess who fights with a sword, runs after bad guys, and drives a speeding carriage like a mofo. What’s not to like? Furthermore, I really dig how the king treats her, keeping her in the know and grooming her almost as his real successor. From very brief mentions of the young prince, it seems he’s rather weak and timid, and he definitely isn’t the one engaging in sparring sessions with war-hero dad. So she’s competent and fierce, and she’s going to make one helluva angel of vengeance in the very near future.

The hero, too, has an interesting layered back story that adds a nice depth to his character. Being illegitimate is a burden he’s lived with all his life, and with his mother now dead he’s only got his absent father left as a family connection. More than that, I feel like he’s built up a lofty picture in his mind all his life, and it’ll probably be really crushing to watch the reality come crashing against that vision. It’s hard to imagine how desperately one must crave that father’s love to kill someone just to get to meet him.

And although General Yeon dismissed Choong in this episode, I’m sure we’ll see Choong scrabbling to keep the connection alive. Should make for some juicy conflict when Dad uses him as a tool against his enemy, and he ends up betraying the love of his life because of it.

I do feel that the main plot is old hat at this point—the story isn’t pushing my buttons, but I’m going with it. It’s similar enough to other dramas to make comparisons inevitable, and I’m not sure Sword and Flower is aiming to shake off those similarities. The Princess’s Man is probably the most obvious connection with its similar Romeo-and-Juliet romance and the “You[r father] killed my father, prepare to die” revenge premise, but there are shades of others, particularly with the coup machinations that form the framework of practically every sageuk ever.

But you know, we’ve had a whole lot of middling sageuks come by lately, and some outright crappy ones, with the number of solidly produced and artfully presented ones in the far minority. So Sword and Flower certainly beats out much of the crop, and it’s well-acted to boot.

Personally, I’m struggling to jump into it because the style is so not my bag. And this is a drama that is so heavily dependent on style that it’s pretty difficult to divorce it from the content. The style becomes content. I actually enjoy the serious tone, and I think I enjoy the oddball lightness even more, but when they’re both in play it’s disconcerting jumping from one to the other. Ultimately the story is always the thing that makes or breaks a drama for me, so I’ll keep up for as long as that keeps me going.


95 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. bishbash

    Please do recap this!!! Chaebal!!!

  2. mj

    There’s a few scene that i felt really weird…. But i think this show has it own charm..so i’m in XD

  3. kfangurl

    Sounds like a drama that’s going to get a lot of mixed reactions.. It sounds so weird – and pretty – that I think I’m gonna have to see *at least* episode 1 to satisfy my curiosity 😉

    • 3.1 TS

      You got it in one.

    • 3.2 Windsun33

      I watched ep1, and I had trouble figuring out what it was really about. In some parts it was more like a travelogue than a drama series. Not sure if I will follow up on this one or not.

  4. Jillia

    “…flipping upside-down into Spiderman kiss mode, and the camera does the full slow-motion 360 whirlaround. I’m rolling on the ground laughing. This is embarrassing for both of us, Show.”

    Bwahahaaa…. this was so me. I will skip this drama because it’s a Goguryeo sageuk. I dislike the Goguryeo era. Plus it looks gorgeous, yes, but gorgeous isn’t everything. I feel bored by it and there is no emotional connection with the characters. Too bad.

    • 4.1 Windsun33

      I am not a big fan of sageuk’s, partly because they are nearly always far too sanitized, but also because they all seem to have far too much of the “Old Men in Beards With Funny Hats” sitting around a whorehouse table and plotting yet another nefarious deed.

    • 4.2 June

      Haha… the upside down 360 slow mode was so long I thought the female lead is going to get dizzy from the blood rush :p

  5. chane

    OMG! Been waiting for this. Thank you so much.

  6. snow_white

    Thanks for the first impressions…..I think this is not my cup of tea…..

  7. Minaya

    Not my cup of tea – pass.

  8. missjutekbanget

    just from the directing this is good production …
    watching it makes me awwwwwwwwwww

  9. money

    there are so many flaw except choi min soo and cinematography

  10. 10 money

    there are so many flaws except choi min soo and cinematography

  11. 11 beggar1015

    Once again I’ll be the lone voice of dissent from my little corner of the room.

    This was awful! Just awful! From the WTF music choices to the looooooooooong stretches of no dialogue and people stomping around, I was left agape at how terrible this story was being executed. I appreciate when a show tries to do something different from the rest of the pack, but there’s “different” and then there’s “What have you been smoking?”

    It’s a shame because I started out really liking Mu Young. She was a take charge kind of gal, driving her carriage during the attack or grabbing a sword and pursuing Choong. But then the writers went out to lunch and she was left with nothing to really do or say for the rest of the hour. Her character had so much potential but they literally left her hanging (upside down.)

    • 11.1 Jenn

      Couldn’t agree more – almost couldn’t stomach it and after episode 2 won’t be tuning in anymore… worst show ever!

    • 11.2 lillyflower

      LMAO…I had so much hope for this drama too…guess I will be carrying on to tune into Shark because this right here…I want to….but Can’t.

    • 11.3 anna

      No, I get you. I couldn’t even finish it. The directing gave me a headache. Why do you need so many angles from the same scene?! I was looking forward to this, but it was so awful. The ratings said so too.

      • 11.3.1 PonderWoman

        Same for me, too. It’s trying to look cool but trying too hard made it so uncool. Half of the first episode is where my patience ended.

  12. 12 KDaddict

    The hair, the wig, the 2nd photo of Uhm of the right……..

    • 12.1 KDaddict

      Typo: 2nd photo of Uhm “oN” the right…….

    • 12.2 NaHyun

      i see what you mean… but i wish they didnt give Uhm Tae-Woong that hairstye… ughh………
      it kinda reminds me of the hairstyle from the dignity of a beggar from gag concert. the flower beggar.

      • 12.2.1 Cass.e

        During the drama PC, Uhm Tae-woong said that in Equator Man he acts with his eyes and in this drama, he acts with his HAIR. Leaving all the people in that room laughing.


        How to hate him. He he.

        Butttttt this drama is slow and me too ROTFL during the upside down scene.. WHAT THE… I burst out laughing. Sorry.

        • Nanaki

          There is TOTALLY such a thing as a hair actor.

        • Kaizeken

          Hahaha, this was me.
          Maybe all the ratings the first episode received was to see his hairstyle…
          But yeah, that upside down scene had me dying…of laughter.

    • 12.3 KDaddict

      It’s Sat; I planned to watch 2 eps, but couldn’t even finish more than 20 mins. Slow and weird.
      I know shows usually take longer to establish themselves, but No, thanks.

  13. 13 latteholic

    This drama is definitely… different. I still don’t know how I feel about it. It’s so gorgeous, and stylish, and it has so many actors I like, but on the other hand I fell asleep when CMS and UTW were on the same screen (how did that happen?), and it spends so much time on details, that I feel like I might have missed something from it. Surely, there is a purpose why they’re taking so many shots of Choong’s feet from different angle when he’s leaving his dad’s house?
    I think I’ll wait until few more episodes come out to decide whether I’ll pick this up again or not. Thanks for recapping, JB!

    • 13.1 Ivoire

      And here I thought someone was on a break from dramas (as in “a serious break” :-), Hum…

  14. 14 Waiting

    I watched this and admittedly fast forwarded through some of it. I did the same for ep 2. I’ll hang on for a few more to see if it develops a personality. I agree that it is shot so beautifully, though the upside down moment was too long of a pause and not realistic.

  15. 15 KDaddict

    Haven’t watched this yet. Will catch up w the first 2 eps this weekend, to check out the show.

  16. 16 allis

    Hah – I was waiting for Javabeans’ thoughts for this drama, seeing that this one is especially.. different! I actually don’t know what i think of it yet, and I might try to watch the 2nd episode.. It’s very pretty and the plot sounded fascinating, despite the long silences and the music (ugh, it’s sorta painful). Hmm.. We’ll see!
    Thanks Javabeans!

  17. 17 Jenny

    I’ll just go hmmmmm, I think it’s clear that it will be a show with mixed opinions. Visually it looks stunning but that isn’t something that will save the show.
    Kim Ok Bin is badass and I’m someone who’s never really been a fan of hers. Luckily she was cast and not Park Shin Hye or was in Yoona because then the character would have become a more frail princess instead of the strong woman we have here.

  18. 18 zakin89

    I am not on board yet… The first episode felt kind of weird.

    I like “no-dialogue-scenes” very much but there were just too many of them…

    And it’s never a good sign when I check the clock like ten times during an episode because it feels like the hour is already over. The first episode felt more like 2 hours so I have to wait and see how everything develops and if I keep watching.

  19. 19 Mystisith

    Like a sageuk watched after taking LSD. I still don’t know what I was watching. Really bizarre. UTW: I know he has his fans but I’m definitely not one of them and the wig doesn’t help… Glad I’m liking the other characters. What I actually loved the most in those 2 episodes is the music. Some called it a spagetti sageuk & it’s a perfect definition. Not sure I’ll stick to this at all but 1 episode here and there as a palate cleanser could be fun.

  20. 20 Makoto

    at least we have pretty princess who has martial art skill. we rarely get one in any drama from joseon dynasty, but goguryeo has many women who fight with sword. pretty cool. 🙂

    • 20.1 Windsun33

      Yeah, and we all know that females with uber martial arts skills were very common in that era 😀

  21. 21 Elfie

    This drama is interesting(basing this on the first episode). I thought the camera work was quite nice but like you said JB, the tapping the fingers and the rustling of clothing got me all anxious. >.<
    The storyline got me really confused with all the flashbacks inside of flashbacks, but I think I'm starting to get it now! 🙂
    Off to watch episode 2 and I hope there's more plot advancement.

  22. 22 bishbash

    Im watching this ep as I am typing, this feels like the drama version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragons, and the likes. The deliberate actions, slo-mo scenes and what not.
    At least we’ll all remember the most famous scene from this drama! And there’re lots of desktop background worthy shots.

    • 22.1 Jesse

      I share this impression as well. It definitely isn’t the usual kdrama type of drama. In my experience people either hate or love chinese movies and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true with this drama.

      I for one like it very much. Even the music!

  23. 23 ruzi mano

    I love man from equator and architecture 101. Just that week in and out, I see Uhmforce in 1n2d….hard to erase him and his goofiness in variety show for a saeguk…hope this drama will be great for my fave actor.

  24. 24 Fun-lugha

    I did try to watch it then realized i was fast forwarding pretty much every scene! It’s boring tbh! Next up imma try Goddess of Fire, if only to see if Gwang Soo’s role is any different this time…

  25. 25 Carole McDonnell

    I like this one a lot. I wanted more flaky fusion, though. When the music popped up, I sorta kinda wanted a whole dance sequence. Or some such. I like flaky, I like sajeuk. So am on board..even if it doesn’t get as weird as I want. Just loving the disorienting shots which would work so well in a fantasy or horror sajeuk.

    I really like the princess, although I did wonder why she is allowed to go wandering around without any bodyguards just after she was attacked.

    The attraction between them is soooooo clear.
    Thanks so much for recapping.

    • 25.1 Jesse

      She has a bodyguard. You can see it at the end of the first episode a few seconds before UTW asks her to trust him she gives her bodyguard a signal to stand down.

  26. 26 owl

    Love the princess’ hair and freedom –
    there are a lot of too long silent moments that frustrate me
    shades of Spiderman and William Tell (and really, we saw the Spiderman face off 4 (count them, 4!) times – 1 – when it happened, 2 – repeat for effect, 3 – when she thought about it, and 4 – when he thought about it. That’s a lot of air time…

  27. 27 nata

    Skipping this after watching 2 episode. It’s like a very pretty fancy dress, yet no matter how many times you try it…it still won’t fit you.

    • 27.1 Cheryl

      That’s such an excellent way of describing why you’re dropping a show.

  28. 28 anais

    I hope the show can arrive sooner than later on an approach that is neither pretentious nor buffoonish. Great that it wants to challenge people’s sense of time, if not by suspending it La Jetee style but by slowing down movement, but just do it better soon.

    I stopped watching Equator Man when the show started incorporating framing and shots that seemed incongruously artsy. Those shots, though lovely, felt as if they were coming from nowhere. Completely unmotivated in terms of diegesis.

    Anyhow, I was much more open-minded at first. Now I just feel the Show is coming across as a high school student’s pretentions at thoughtfulness.

  29. 29 PollyRose

    This was a strange watch for me. I couldn’t tell if I just wasn’t artistic enough to “get it” or if it was really trying to be funny and I was over thinking it. That moment where he saves her from being trampled and for no discernible reason she goes flying completely turned over like it’s a fight just killed me. I was like, “Clearly I’m supposed to be laughing right now, right? Cause otherwise this is just Dr. Jin unintentional funny and if so, ouch…”

    I wanted to like it. I thought it would be a nice change of pace to try a sageuk, but I’m not sure this will be the one for me. But it sure is pretty to look at and I genuinely liked the princess. Maybe if recaps continue with Javabeans acting as interpreter I’ll check it out again 🙂

  30. 30 Jillia

    Somewhere I read it was inspired by the masterpiece Duelist… I can hardly disagree on that. Just for the fact that Duelist was brilliant – in cinematography, in acting, in music. Every scene was a like a painting.

    While Sword and Flower is NOT.

    • 30.1 Jillia

      Sorry of course I wanted to say:

      “I can’t agree on that.” not “I can hardly disagree on that.” lol

  31. 31 Suzi Q

    This sageuk has its weird moments. Agreed, the cinematography is great, but I was BORED and it’s a mismash!
    The POP music killed the mood..totally weird and distracting.What were they thinking? What is this kind of music doing in a sageuk?
    Definitely dislike Uhm’s hairdo.It’s horrible.
    Too bad, I love the actors.I watched it late at night and I fell asleep twice. ZZZZ not that interesting.

  32. 32 Bibianni

    Javabeans, I was waiting for your recap!

    Coz I was super AMUSED by ep 1 and I really want to know how many like-minded people are there, lol. Seemed like there’s quite a lot 🙁

    Seriously that funny music was really QUITE OFF! the minute it started playing I was like “HUH???” -_____-

    And I can’t believe that there was no dialogue between them for so long -just stealing glances, smiling, following…Yeah we know it’s love at first sight, but it felt like AGES…;(

    AND the slowwww motionnn SPIDER-MAN scene- SERIOUSLY, I can DIE LAUGHING..it is just so weird in a sageuk!!!! .one 2D1N is disappointing enough, I don’t want Uhmforce to be in a weird drama..T.T

    I guess for the sake of Uhmforce, I will still give it a shot, at least for 4 episodes….

    Javabeans hope you wiill continue to recap the drama…IF you can stand it…:)

  33. 33 Kiara

    I really really want to love this show. So far its beautiful and all and I’m enjoying it but we are not going to get much of the epicness of this era. I’m guessing that they just don’t have that kind of budget.

  34. 34 Farpavilions

    The show had me at the slow-mo shot of Uhmforce striding past the chariot with the hilariously epic synth music. Plus the melty puppy eyes!

    And you gotta love a heroine – esp. a sageuk heroine at that – who’s ballsy enough to peek out of a window ogle her man in broad daylight and make eyes at him.

  35. 35 JenJen

    I’m addicted to the visual feast of the first couple of episodes of Sword and Flower and I’m loving MuYoung (for the most part) because she’s a badarse mofo. However there were a bunch of little things that irritated me like a pebble in my shoe.
    The scene where MuYoung and Choong meet started off a little cut but did not inherently get me to believe a mutual attraction. I think it was because Choong’s expression felt the same/indifferent while MuYoung was being smitten. I’m a bit obsessive compulsive in that every time the hair accessory vender was shown, there was no one vending at the table. I didn’t like that they added the almost-got-runover trope and, even if that trope were necessary, the extravagant flip was over the top. I cringed then fast forward. (same with their flashbacks of the moment)
    Lee JungShin’s acting is quite bad. I know he’s green and all but his character is so irritating to watch…
    And MuYoung’s “love” for Choong is on one hand cute (in a rom-com kind of way) but on the other hand it’s somewhat off-putting compared to her badass persona in the palace much in the way that Moon ChaeWon’s character in Nice Guy was.
    As to the last scene: nothing says sexy like when the object of your desire is shooting some arrows at you. just sayin’

  36. 36 Sue

    I have not watched this show, but I was bored halfway through the recap. Didn’t finish it. But I’ll keep an eye on the comments. If enough people recommend it I’ll give it a chance.

  37. 37 crazedlu

    I thought it was an awkward watch. I fast forwarded through the raw, like I usually do with premieres, and spent the entire time clicking for dialogue from Uhmforce, or anyone. There was so much gazing, and walking, and picking up stuff, I just kept going o_0;. It’s pretty to look at, yeah, but I don’t think I have confidence in the story being told well beyond that. Annnd, it might pull an Arang and lose that style and consistency, which would then hurt the story, because it’s pretty darn dependent on it right now. Well, not my cup of tea…

  38. 38 ilikemangos

    I’m just glad you’ve pointed out all the weird stuff about this show that i noticed in the first episode as well.
    I don’t even know what to think of it.
    First episode didn’t really do it for me.
    The pros : crisp colors — gorgeous, movie like. So purty.
    SOME of the tracks are nice to listen to. Acting is superrrb. Badass fighting.
    The Cons: funky ass music that takes me back to old western movies (i noticed they were played only in scenes that included our main OTP so far),
    Weird directing. This first episode was definitely a director’s episode. Barely any dialogue. Alot of time wasted — people moving around, people waiting around, people sitting around. Attention to detail (as you’ve pointed out, that had me anxious, a bit overdone.) I wish our heroine didn’t fall in love with uhm tae woongs character so fast. I wanted her to be a badass fighter AND play hard to get. The first episode didn’t have me buying into their romance at all because it felt superficial — he sees her, she sees him, both gaze at each other for long amounts of time and then she sits there waiting for him (going back to time wasted here).
    No more spider saves, no more feet thumping clothes rustling, fingers tapping, weird music, awkward directing and maybe this show might just be awesome. I also need alot more storytelling and action — this first episode felt dragged out and couldn’t hold my interest for long because the director spent so much time on style — but style that ended up coming off annoying, not slick.
    I wanted to love this show because i needed a sageuk with equal parts romance,action,drama. Let’s just hope it gets better from here on out. Or i’ll go peace. But, JB, if you continue to recap it, i’ll continue to watch. Don’t know what it is but recaps get me going.

    • 38.1 pogo

      yeah, the falling in love because, well, he’s pretty just did not do it for me at all. If they wanted to show love at first sight, they could have done better.

      • 38.1.1 KDaddict

        ……like give him a different wig? 😉

  39. 39 aquamarine

    The princess is adorable! That upside-down scene was so cute! It totally worked for me.

    It’s not your average kdrama, so that’s a big plus, I think – not that the standard fare is bad, it’s just been done to death. So the music goes well with the quirky style they seem to be striving for. Will watch.

  40. 40 chickenwing

    First few minutes look quite nicely shot, followed by chase scene accompanied with modern/rock music (a bit jarring). Might continue since I’m an Uhm fan

    Nice hair, Uhm.

  41. 41 shelly

    Traveling along a mountain road, a royal entourage conveys the princess and prince (played by Lee Min-ho). Arrows come flying in as the party is ambushed: Bodies fall and the guards shout to protect the princess.

    wait, wait, i’ve seen this in “faith”. oh, you meant the other lee min-ho. still similar, though.

    somewhere along the line, i lost the plot of the flashbacks. i am not sure when this is happening. and how did it start/end?… errrr.

    The leader does offer up one of his younger men, SHI-WOO (Lee Jung-shin), to help her out whenever she needs.

    THERE, i knew i had something to watch. the pretty, oooh, the pretty.

    but where does the pretty go?!… get him back…

    • 41.1 jullie

      the pretty isn’t that nice to look at…his nose is weird and his acting is pretty bad

  42. 42 amused but not really

    Can I just point out that in all the scenes they had together, it took over an hour for choong to say one freaking thing while to muyong while she didn’t say a thing. I agree wholeheartedly javabeans–on the one hand I appreciate the beautiful off-center and some of the lingering shots, but it tends to drag and only emphasise the obvious. The editors of the show seems to be confused as to when or what kind of music is appropriate, not to mention when to cut out excess that doesn’t do much for the plot.
    Does anyone know if this show is filmed in advanced? I feel like if that isn’t the case, they will really be pushed for time. I mean imagine how many times they had to shoot that dad walking to choong scene with all those camera angles. Makes you feel bad for the actors. =.=

  43. 43 pogo

    I’m rather enjoying it, but cautiously – it’s pretty ok so far, and I like the wacky touches, but I can totally get why so many actors (including my initial two favourites for the role, Song Joong-ki and Park Shin-hye) turned it down because just going by feel alone, this one is distinctly touch-and-go (and the Romance For No Reason doesn’t help either). And the 6.7% ratings seem to bear that out too.

    • 43.1 Kiara

      Glad she dropped it because Kim Ok-bin is more fitting for this role.

      • 43.1.1 ilikemangos

        still dont know how park shin hye would have worked with uhm tae woong. the romance would have been all kinds of wrong especially with how forced show made it.
        Kim ok bin is good for this role, indeed. Her standing next to uhm tae woong is also easy on the eyes.

        • pogo

          ilikemangos – They were ok in the Cyrano movie, but I agree, PSH and UTW would not have worked in this drama AT ALL. I was talking purely in terms of her potentially pairing off with Song Joong-ki.

  44. 44 kngdrama

    I am watching for General Yeon only.

    Princess’s over the top sweet (sweet!) slow (slow!) smiles drive me crazy.

  45. 45 miw8miw

    I liked it. I guess I have weird taste for it is the first saeguk I feel really attracted to this year.

  46. 46 Abbie

    This show…is not what I expected. I like the story itself well enough. And I like the action and seriousness. Not so much the cute. Which is a shame because I LOVE Uhmforce. He’s easily one of the best actors I’ve ever seen in South Korea. But I just don’t really buy the cute. So, I’m not sure if I’ll follow this drama or not, since it’s not on Dramafever. Yet. Or ever.

    Anyway, what I want to know is, how closely does this drama follow history? I always want to know that with sageuks. Did (the majority) of these characters exist? And is Jang really the next king? What happens to Mu-young and her brother in that case?

    I actually find Jang a compelling character. Sure he’s one of the “bad guys” but there’s a sense of melancholy and regret about him. I get that just from screen caps. I like that, and I think that makes him a more interesting character than Choong.

    Anyway, thanks for the recap, Javabeans. I hope you do recap this, but I’ll understand if you decide not too. I can’t quite stomach all the cutesy stuff either.

  47. 47 topper

    Kim Ok Bin is so gorgeous in this show.

    The reverse spidey and abrupt scattering of flower petals made it hard to take the romance seriously, but the show is entertaining at least for this pilot.

  48. 48 Zo

    Didn’t not like at all, one thing that is a must for me in sageuk is that, it must be smooth. This show opposite, complete opposite. I hated everything from the talking introduction to the jump straight into the kings court kind of thing.Their meeting is so boring and the reveal of his background so un creatively done. The editing man so many flaws. It not anything major but the little jerks here and there really make it obvious especially in sageuk. But your right javabeans. pretty it certainly was. But what i hate ( i blame you director) is the constant waiting for the extended shots of the camera to be over. That kinda stuff is supposed to be seamless but why. And the upside down turn thing, have you been into joss whedon lately. The music is overdone. Its like they spent all their time on the pretty and forgot how to tell a seemless story.

  49. 49 Tylee30

    Omo I hope Gag’s Concert ( King Of Ratings) do a skit for this because thos drama’s rating are going to go down even tho they added the IDOL!! Now they need to add product placements and this will be perfect (LOL)

  50. 50 Chun chun

    I read that this drama is KBS ‘hit’ drama this year.

    They hope this will follow Princess’s Man in 2011 and Bridal Mask in 2012. Well, I love these two drama, the actors, set stories and most of all their awesome background music. It’s epic!

    Earlier I was excited but after watching the first episode I dont know if I wan to continue watching it. Move faster show. You too slow. Please.

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